Henry Holt; October, 2009
Overall Grade: B
Spending her first time away from her newly-married twin sister Percy is difficult for Penelope Leland, but she is determined to take the opportunity to learn to wield magic as well as her talented twin. While visiting her old governess/magical instructor Ally in Ireland, Pen learns new magic and meets new people: a wealthy Lady with a disreputable past, a small Irish faery called a clurichaun with a taste for fairy whiskey and an affinity with young witches, a ghost, and a young gentleman with mysterious origins and a very handsome face. In Ireland, Pen's magic thrives along with an exciting new romance...until both threaten to turn Pen against all that she holds most dear.
I always find it interesting to read sequels of books I've already reviewed, to see how they compare to the first book. Overall, I found the writing/plot/and pacing of Betraying Season to show a development and growth in Marissa Doyle's writing. Also, Pen's voice was delightfully easy to follow and interesting. It was infinitely readable and entertaining, but I felt it still suffered from some of the same problems as the first book. Namely, the magic is thrown into the real world in a way that brings up far more questions than are answered; the ones that are answered are a mix between vague and detailed which leaves the reader slightly disoriented. Also, though I thought the overall plot development was well-done, unfortunately the very crux of it was highly doubtful. Without any spoilers, that's hard to explain, but basically I felt like the authors/characters were trying to fool me into believing something was far more important than it actually was. "The only way" a certain character could get what she wanted was unbelievable, as was another character's "only way" to prevent that, but other possibilities of either plot point were never even explored. And as this second "only way" involved a character doing something entirely against the nature that had been developed for him (but conveniently adding a hightened tension for the romance plot), I was quite disappointed.
On the plus side, I felt the author has really improved her ability to bring the world of Victorian Europe alive; her dialogue was excellent and appropriate to the character's time and place, though I did note a few anachronisms that both sounded modern and could have been easily avoided.
Literary Quality: A-
Descriptive Ability: A
Believability of Characters: B
Believability of Situations: B-
Overall Reading Enjoyment: A
*Possibly Objectionable Topics: sensuality and several veiled (a few not so veiled) mentions of sex; one instance of crude humor; language; idolatry; witchcraft. (Because the story is set in the real, historical world, against a backdrop of an obviously Christian country, the magical elements do not feel like harmless fantasy and can be disturbing.)